Brooksville Elementary School students log 3 million minutes to place first in Scholastic’s Read for the World Record Challenge

Brooksville Elementary School students placed first in the Scholastic Book Fairs Read for the World Record Challenge, logging three million reading minutes from April 27 through August 31 and out-reading the second-place finisher by more than 712,313 minutes.

It was a tremendous achievement for the Hernando Country, Fla., Title 1 school, whose students come primarily from a low-income area (79 percent receive free or reduced lunches). The competitive spirit was so contagious that the school managed to surpass its initial goal for the summer of 900,000 reading minutes in only few weeks.

In the past, Brooksville Elementary had offered kids a variety of inducements – parties, movies, coupons, disposable cameras, and food – to entice them into reading more. But nothing seemed to work until the school decided to participate in Scholastic’s summer reading program.

“Nothing really seemed to motivate the kids, not even food, and our kids love to eat,” said Principal Mary LeDoux. “Not until we started the Summer Challenge did I finally see the kids stick with their reading. The program was a great motivator – and kept them reading through the summer.”

LeDoux and Nancy Lovelock, the school’s media specialist, said the key to the program’s success was the widespread support they received from the community, including the Brooksville Public Library and the Hernando County Library, which gave students access to computers to log their reading minutes.

“It was a huge community effort that brought everyone together – parents, students, city officials and the local libraries. Even our three- and four-year-olds in pre-K participated,” said Lovelock. “That was the key. You’ve got to get everyone involved to be successful.”

Even the local media threw their support behind the effort. The daily newspaper Hernando Today wrote several articles covering the competition, and Bay News 9, the local TV station, interviewed school officials for a special segment highlighting Brooksville’s aggressive efforts to promote reading.

Many of the students were stunned by their school’s sudden rise to prominence.

“I was shocked because we were number nine the first day, and then the second day we were number two, and a week later we were number one. And then we stayed number one the whole summer,” said Will, a fifth-grade student.

“When we made it from ninth to first place, everybody was jumping up and down, screaming and yelling,” said Brianna, another fifth-grader. When asked about competing next year, she replied, “I don’t think anybody’s going to beat us. We’re going to stay on track.”

Lovelock said one of her most poignant experiences during the competition was the emotional reaction of the students.

“Kids would stop me in the hallway, and say ‘Miss Lovelock, I’m reading for the world record, and I’ve logged my minutes!’ And then they’d ask for more books to read.”

LeDoux agreed. “The excitement of the kids was definitely my favorite part of the Read for the World Record Challenge.”

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